Unexpected Connections — A Sense of Community with Lindsay Jang
Interview and text by Alek Rose
In the modern day, where relevance is almost directly correlated with social media presence, we are encouraged to categorize ourselves. We are one thing and one thing only. This however does not portray the whole picture for a creative. Creativity is not one single thing, it is a lifetime of lessons learned, failures and triumphs—a complex construction of seemingly unconnected experiences.
On Wednesday, November 7th, MAEKAN and Imprint come together to bring you the Unexpected Connections Conference. Throughout the day, speakers from all sides of creative culture will explore the ways in which their everyday life intersects with their professions.
To find out more information, including who will be speaking at the conference and how to get your tickets, head over to http://ucc.maekan.com.
On paper, nothing seems to connect. Yoga, restaurants, and media. But for Canadian-born, Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, Lindsay Jang makes it all work. Lindsay’s expertise stretches between disciplines, whether that’s restaurants and spirits: Yardbird, Ronin, and Sunday’s to be exact, or women’s online media platform and clothing brand MISSBISH. All sides of Lindsay’s professional life are united by a drive to create a community around something that she loves, her most recent example of this being ventures in whisky with Sunday’s. Lindsay has had a long relationship with yoga and she owes much of her successful mindset to the teachings of it. Approaching situations with humility and rejecting the pull of an ego means that Lindsay doesn’t give in to a feeling of success, rather than settling, she continues to push ideas and to learn. This constant process of refinement is at the core of everything she does.
I think I was 11 when I started to work regularly and then I just started to understand the value of money. And how hard you have to work to earn it. So that’s sort of where it all started for me.
Alek Rose: How do you find time to do everything?
Lindsay Jang: It’s funny, I mean that’s probably the most common question that I get, but the truth of it all is that I’m really really good at delegating and putting teams together. So yeah, I’ve had stressful moments and stressful years, but, generally speaking, once I get something up and running and, let’s say it’s not in a growth phase anymore, then I’m very good at removing myself from the operational aspects of things. I go in and I’ll set it up or I’ll put the people in place that know how to do those things. But I’m not a micromanager.
Alek: What about those who are micromanagers and they’re heavily connected with every process?
Lindsay: A lot of people I know, they can’t let go of things, they have to do everything and they have to make sure everything is perfect. In a sense, they’re taking away time from themselves to learn new things or discover new things or build new things because they can’t seem to get out of having their hands in everything, and I’m just kind of the opposite. So I have a lot more free time than people probably think. Yes, I do put guilt on myself, but I don’t put a lot of boundaries around my time. I’ve never believed that me being in an office for 10 hours a day was necessary if I could do everything I needed to do at least as well, if not better, on my own time. I’ve been lucky enough to be my own boss since 2008 so the only person that is making me feel bad if I’m not doing enough is myself.
Alek: Yeah, that can swing both ways though.
Lindsay: Yep, it can be a good or bad thing. There have definitely been some stressful times and it wears on a lot of different things: physically, personal relationships, etc. Now I’m a little bit more cognizant of saying no more.
Alek: The fact that you have so many commitments and projects shows a sort of superhuman motivation to be constantly looking for more. What are your earliest memories of that feeling of wanting to push further and start something new? Where did that come from?
Lindsay: Yeah, I mean, it’s actually quite simple. I got it from my dad—my dad is an immigrant. He moved to Canada when he was 7. I’m first generation so I was the first generation born there on that side of my family. Just witnessing and understanding. Obviously also the Asian mentality. Being a minority in the prairies of Canada and watching my grandparents who were educated and had wealth when they were in Asia but then moving to a completely foreign country and starting at the lowest of the low—you’re dishwashing, you don’t speak English. Obviously they were there so that my dad and his siblings could be educated. My dad always worked so hard no matter what he was doing. I just watched him hustle. He’s an engineer by education, got laid off in the early ‘80s when the recession hit.
He won this lottery the year I was born and then saved that money to buy a restaurant. It’s a generational thing, it’s just a skill set. So I grew up working in a restaurant because my dad just knew that he could make a consistent living from it. My whole family worked there. So my dad ended up wanting to make sure that not only could he feed everybody but he could also give them jobs and help people in that sense. So I think I was 11 when I started to work regularly and then I just started to understand the value of money. And how hard you have to work to earn it. So that’s sort of where it all started for me. Then also understanding that there wasn’t really anything that you couldn’t do if you tried to do it—that’s really where it comes from.
I don’t ever feel successful and I don’t want to sound ungrateful or ignorant about it, but I just feel there’s so much more stuff that I can do and that I want to do. It’s that feeling of constant refinement and being better at something all the time and continuing to learn.
Alek: So when it comes to your free time, Eugene mentioned that you are big into yoga.
Lindsay: Yes. I go in phases. I’ve been doing it since I was 17 which is more than half my life at this point. I’ve always been into it, but I took a break from working when my daughter was born and when we moved to Hong Kong, so I had the opportunity to actually teach it. I was really deep into it, deep into that community, and it was my whole life for a while. I still practice it. I don’t take it quite as seriously and I’m more well-rounded in the fitness aspect—I like doing a lot of different kinds of things. Yoga had a huge impact on my life and how I thought about things spiritually but almost more of just how I behave—I had a really amazing teacher. That stuff still sits with me and it’s still there, but the physical practice sometimes I’m not as dedicated to.
Alek: How does the philosophy behind yoga translate into professional situations for you?
Lindsay: You cultivate a lot of patience, just patience with your body and the patience with all the things that you do when you’re practicing something so physical every single day. The removal of the ego is my favorite part and being able to approach situations with humility has to be the biggest gift that I get from doing yoga. I think that there is an opportunity for me to approach life very differently with a small amount of success I’ve had at my age, but that’s not something that crosses my mind. I don’t think about it.
I think that also ties in with your question about what keeps driving me—I don’t ever feel successful and I don’t want to sound ungrateful or ignorant about it, but I just feel there’s so much more stuff that I can do and that I want to do. It’s that feeling of constant refinement and being better at something all the time and continuing to learn. I never feel like I know everything and that’s something that yoga teaches you as well: you’re not a master unless you’ve been practicing for 60 years and even then people who practice yoga would never advocate that they’re masters, and that’s something that I take with me all the time.
Alek: Your CV defies all categorization: restaurants, MISSBISH, the clothing line at MISSBISH. Do you see a common thread that links them all?
Lindsay: No, I think the reason that I’ve been able to pop around different industries or categories is that I always focus on something that is community-based or is involving a lot of people. I don’t do anything by myself—maybe it’s out of fear, I’m not sure—but I really like to work on something with people. Also, I think that everything I work on is a brand, so Yardbird has become a brand and Sunday’s has become a brand and MISSBISH is a brand. So beyond what they serve or produce, at the end of the day communicating them digitally is the exact same thing.
Alek: So brand could be the connective thread?
I think that’s the common thread and then—I’m really trying to not do this anymore—but if I’m interested in something and I’m really into it then I have that innate drive to try and monetize it, not in a greedy way but in a way, “Oh cool, well, you know I’m already very into yoga and I have authenticity in that community. We built MISSBISH and now it’s good and we have an audience, we should be able to do product and I know people will trust me because I do use these clothes all the time.” Now does that mean everything is successful? Absolutely not. But I think the common theme throughout all of the things that I attempt to do is that number one, I love whatever I’m working on. Whisky is my biggest project right now and it’s easy for me to sell it or to raise money for it because I love the product, I drink the product, and I sell the product in my restaurant. It doesn’t feel forced. I think people know that you can’t just pay me to pretend that I like something.